Inside Korea's Shocking Billion Dollar Beauty Industry


The standard of beauty is ever evolving, but no nation has undergone such a drastic change more than South Korea. With the emergence of K-Pop and Korean Idols in the 90’s many young men and women in Korea are left feeling less than desirable. Even parents are starting to push kids to modify their looks in order to be more socially accepted. Which leaves us with 10 disturbing facts about Korea’s billion-dollar beauty industry.

The beauty industry in Korea has been booming over the past decade, so much that Korean beauty products are one of the nation’s biggest exports. The Korean government is actually starting to cash in, and invest money in protecting its newest industry. The market for beauty products in Korea has become so saturated that the government will actually give tax breaks to companies that are export only. Did we mention that the tax break means these companies don’t have to pay any taxes at all? That’s right, this has become such a big business that there are now 1,800 to 2,000 beauty brands in South Korea. The Government has started to help it’s beauty industry by teaching companies marketing and packaging skills, and will even come to the aid of companies that sue overseas competitors who copy formulas.

It’s hard to escape an industry that is backed by the government, so the new standard is actually crammed in the face of young South Koreans. It’s not uncommon for plastic surgeons to promote their services to high school aged kids by passing out pamphlets as students leave their schools. Parents are even known to give plastic surgery procedures as birthday presents to their teenagers. South Korean parents believe that they are doing their children a service by investing in their outer beauty because employers are known to want beautiful people in the work force.

The most disturbing trend when it comes to Korean beauty is the rise of plastic surgery. Children as young as 16 years old are seeking out nose jobs and double eye-lid reductions to meet expectations of beauty. Korea has passed Brazil as the plastic surgery capital of the world. There are more plastic surgeries per capita in South Korea, and it is estimated that 1 in 5 women ages 19 – 49 have had some sort of plastic surgery. The scariest plastic surgery trending now can come at a steep price. Jaw slimming was once only used to correct under bites or jaw deformities, but young Koreans are starting to seek it out for cosmetic reasons. A small v-shaped face is considered feminine in Korea and can be obtained by having the bone cutting surgery. The risks associated with this surgery are face numbness, which actually affects 52% of patients, and possible paralysis. These risks don’t stop the over 5,000 people a year who endure this procedure.

The surgeries aren’t the only extreme thing in the Korean beauty industry, but the beauty products themselves can contain some crazy ingredients. Korean women are known to have up to 10 products they use daily, and with a plethora of options on the market, the stranger the product, the better they work. A big trend in Korea at the moment is using snail secretions as an ingredient in beauty products. It may sound disgusting but snail slime is actually scientifically and dermatologically proven to be highly effective and beneficial when it comes to skin cell regeneration and repair.

Though it doesn’t seem like the Korean beauty industry will be going away anytime soon, one has to wonder how long these extreme beauty standards will last. How much is too much?